Kharkiv’s Ghost District
Saltivka was home to a third of the city’s population; Russian attacks turned it into a wasteland.
All photos by Oleksandr Magula.
Empty streets, burned buildings and tarmac swallowed up in large rocket craters: The northern Kharkiv district of Saltivka is a ghostly shadow of its former self.
Barely 30 kilometres from the Russian border, this was the first large urban area the Russian army encountered in the first weeks of the invasion.
Planned in the 1960s, Saltivka became Ukraine’s largest Soviet-era “sleeping district,” once home to about 400,000 people, a third of Ukraine’s second largest city. Today only about five per cent of residents remain, surviving in pockmarked buildings with no electricity or water and under constant shelling. About 70 per cent of the residential infrastructure is destroyed; buildings burned, shops boarded up, playgrounds deserted.
The district housed Barabashovo market, reportedly Europe’s largest, which sprawled over 300,000 square metres and where tens of thousands of people traded. Today the facility, named after Nikolai Barabashov, the astronomer who published the first images of the dark side of the moon in 1961, is an empty shell after Russian rocket attacks.
Fewer missilies have fallen since May as Ukrainian forces repulsed Russian troops from their positions north of the district, but they continue to fall. Residents who did not leave, largely elderly people, sleep in basements and rely on humanitarian aid.